//The grapes of rath

The grapes of rath

Pankaj Vohra, Hindustan Times ,March 19, 2006

Politics of the Sangh parivar appears to be in turmoil once again with L.K. Advani, leader of the opposition, wanting to take out his Bharat Jodo Yatra, and Uma Bharati, the fiery sanyasin and former Madhya Pradesh CM is expected to hold a massive rally in Delhi on Tuesday — perhaps to announce the formation of a new political party with Hindutva as its primary agenda. While the VHP has expressed its reservations over Advani’s proposed yatra, the RSS has formulated its response very carefully by stating that it was not opposed to the yatra.

The significance of RSS Sarsanghchalak K. Sudarshan’s statement was evident when he refused to actively back the yatra and, instead, made it clear that the Sangh would not oppose it since it sought to endorse the RSS’s resolution and views on minorityism. Any effort to endorse the Sangh’s stand was always welcome, the RSS chief opined. The political interpretation of the statement was that Advani’s new programme was not on top of the RSS priority list, although some media reports created an erroneous impression that the yatra had the RSS’s active support. The RSS was, instead, preoccupied with its other programmes, including the centenary celebrations of Guru Golwalkar.

This lukewarm response has evidently filtered the desired message through the RSS’s rank and file that they should continue doing the tasks assigned to them by the pracharaks and not oppose the yatra at any juncture. In fact, those who are trying to conclude that not opposing the yatra implied automatic support must understand that political persons and organisations use terms and phrases carefully to express themselves. There was no ambiguity in what Sudarshan said and what he wanted to convey. Obviously, the absence of overtly proactive support from the Sangh cadre may have its overall impact on the success or failure of the proposed yatra.

What has also surprised political observers is Advani’s schizophrenic politics. Soon after the Jinnah remarks in Pakistan, he had lashed out at the RSS accusing it of interfering in the BJP affairs. His comments about the Sangh at the Chennai conclave last year implied that the RSS should mind its own business and leave realpolitik to the BJP. It should stop meddling in the BJP’s affairs needlessly.

But the same Advani, after unilaterally announcing his yatra, rushed to Nagpur seeking the RSS’s blessings. The obvious implication of the visit was that the RSS should ‘interfere’ in the BJP’s affairs by extending its support. It should also rein in other Sangh affiliates who expressed their opposition to attempts at strengthening  Hindutva with a yatra — by the man who had challenged the RSS supremacy but had to give up the BJP presidentship instead.

Another amusing aspect of the yatra is that it will not enter the poll-bound states. Advani wants to basically travel through either the BJP-ruled states or where BJP presence is significant. If the message of his yatra is to expose minorityism, then he should go to the states where it is perceived that state governments were appeasing the minorities for votes. But what is the point of expending energy on the yatra when people have already given their mandate to the BJP and endorsed its views? It would have been useful for the party if the poll-bound states were included, as the yatra would have served as a symbolic way of propagating the party’s stand.

And while all this is going on, Uma Bharati is fully determined to launch her own party. Being perhaps the only second-generation mass leader from the Sangh parivar, Uma’s plans could have wide-ranging ramifications as BJP’s cadres may be tempted to move over since ideologically, the new outfit would appear to be more committed. Uma also has the support of BJP’s women supporters. Hers is a grave threat to the party which expelled her and deprived her the opportunity of becoming MP’s chief minister once again, despite having the mandate. BJP president Rajnath Singh said recently that the BJP was the only party which has not faced a split like the Congress or the communists. What he is unable to see is that splits sometimes also occur outside the nomenclature of the Election Commission. A large number of BJP supporters (and even some leaders) may find themselves leaning more towards Uma’s party than the parent party. If Madan Lal Khurana also joins Uma, the strength will increase. This strength may swell and a time may come that the rank and file and the support apparatus of the BJP in the shape of VHP and other Sangh affiliates may move away from the BJP towards Uma.

Uma’s confidence in floating her party hints at a sizeable support base from the Sangh. Apparently, the RSS too has given its tacit approval for the formation of a ‘Hindutva Front’ on the same lines as the Left Front. The idea is that all outfits swearing allegiance to Hindutva politics, including the BJP, Uma and perhaps the Shiv Sena, come under one Hindutva umbrella. The Sangh decides whom its rank and file will choose for electoral purposes, depending on that outfit’s commitment to Hindutva politics.

The days ahead will show whether Advani is able to bring the BJP back to its Hindutva agenda or Uma Bharati is able to snatch it and make it the credo of her party. And will the political developments lead to a Hindutva Front? Or will all these demonstrations of strength prove futile? Between us.